Monday, August 28, 2017 at 7:39 AM

Hurricane Harvey: Water, Water, Everywhere, But Not a Bone Should Sink

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

Harvey spun deeper into Texas and unloaded extraordinary amounts of rain Saturday after the once-fearsome hurricane crashed into vulnerable homes and businesses along the coastline in a blow that killed at least two people and injured up to 14. …

By Sunday, hundreds of rescues had already been made in Houston, and many more were expected as rescuers battling severe weather and heavy downpours tried hard to reach those left stranded. Authorities did not know the full scope of damage because weather conditions prevented emergency crews from getting into the hardest-hit places – and they dreaded the destruction that was yet to come.

(CBS News, August 27, 2017)

No doubt this hurricane will leave a lot of devastation in his wake, which will likely include more (preventable) casualties. But it’s important to maintain some perspective. For example, it might be helpful to know that, as weather-related and other natural disasters go, seasonal wildfires cause far more devastation than seasonal hurricanes.

Mind you, nothing compels perspective quite like Chicken-Little reporters “wading” through ankle-deep water, while trying to convince viewers that they are reporting on a flood of biblical proportions.

News outlets cover natural disasters purportedly as a public service. But there’s no denying that such coverage is a ratings boon for their bottom line – catering as it does to the perverse thrill of suspense that keeps us fixated on the hype of impending doom. …

[But] Americans are blessed with the technology, escape routes to inland shelters, and other emergency management resources to track and withstand hurricanes with no loss of life.

(“Katrina’s Coming, Katrina’s Coming,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 29, 2005)

Of course, there are areas where people are wading through waist-deep water to get to shelter. But they are very likely among those who willfully ignored evacuation orders.

Storm surges, biblical rains, and high winds are all conspiring for what could be the worst storm to touch the United States since Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma pummeled the Southeast 12 years ago. …

But there’s no amount of messaging that will get 100 percent of a population to evacuate. …

‘A lot of people are taking this storm for granted, thinking it may not pose much of a danger to them,’ Texas Gov. Greg Abbott told Huston reporters Thursday.

(Vox News, August 25, 2017)

Meanwhile, given all of the media focus on how President Trump is doing, you’d think he were the eye of this storm. I get that, like President Obama, he’s trying to show that he can pass this test of leadership, which President George W. Bush failed so spectacularly during Hurricane Katrina.

What I don’t get is why the media are hailing Trump. After all, he’s doing little more than tweeting cheerleading platitudes from his comfortable presidential retreat at Camp David, where he’s probably spending as much time on the golf driving range as he is on his tweet sending phone.

Many people are now saying that this is the worst storm/hurricane they have ever seen. Good news is that we have great talent on the ground. …

I will be going to Texas as soon as that trip can be made without causing disruption. The focus must be life and safety.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 27, 2017

Yet, even in the midst of supposedly showing concern for those affected, he could not resist making it about his primary and abiding concern: himself. For here is what he tweeted just 15 minutes later:

I will also be going to a wonderful state, Missouri, that I won by a lot in ’16….

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 27, 2017

Hell, by this standard, instead of panning Bush, the media should have hailed him.

After all, he was so concerned about conditions on the ground during Katrina, he instructed Air Force One to fly over the affected areas to see them for himself.

Anyway, given the media’s wall-to-wall coverage of this “historic” event, you’d never know that “biblical floods” have become as commonplace as mass shootings.

2016 really was the year of the flood in the US: In total, 19 separate floods swamped the nation last year, the most in one single year since records began in 1980. …

The worst flood was in August in Louisiana. At least 13 people were killed and roughly 60,000 buildings were destroyed. The disaster cost $10 billion, Munich Re reported, which noted it was the worst natural catastrophe in the US since Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

(USA Today, January 4, 2017)

As it happens, floods devastated parts of California earlier this year, much as they are devastating parts of Texas today:

The storms that have pummeled California since January are part of an atmospheric rive event that has brought major flooding and damage to parts of Northern California. …

People in the small town of Maxwell, northwest of Sacramento and west of the town of Oroville, had to be evacuated on Sunday, February 19 after flood waters hit most of the area. …

Rescuers launched rafts and used a helicopter to search for residents cut off by rising water.

(Curbed San Francisco, February 20, 2017)

Yet browse the Trump Twitter Archive and you’ll see that he couldn’t even be bothered to publish a perfunctory tweet as storms were pummeling California – not even during the entire month of February when they were at their most devastating. He was too busy tweeting up a storm with fake news about how much he had already done to “Make America Great Again.” Never mind that, for Trump, every new thing is “something the likes of which nobody has ever seen before.”

So forgive me if I dismiss as “fake news” all of the media reports about the commendable leadership Trump is demonstrating during these floods. Which compels me to suggest that, instead of watching stations peddle the same footage over and over again as “Breaking News,” you might want to check out some of the other 900 channels in your cable TV package.

I am mindful that I might appear insensitive (i.e., towards the plight of those affected). But I grew up in the Caribbean. And, even though Harvey spared us, our islands have served as a buffer zone for many of the worst hurricanes to ever hit US shores, including Katrina.

I could not help breaking out in gallows laughter when a concerned American friend asked if [we] ever received evacuation orders. Her concern coincided with governors of states along the eastern seaboard of the United States ordering mandatory evacuations for coastal residents to shelter ‘100 miles inland.’

But the reason I could not help laughing is that issuing an evacuation order in the Caribbean to escape a hurricane is rather like issuing an evacuation order in China to escape the smog. Where the hell would they go? After all, if people on most islands were to evacuate 100 miles inland, they’d end up either in the Caribbean Sea or the Atlantic Ocean.

(“Hurricane Mathew,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 8, 2016)

With that point of privilege, my thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected by the floods covering Texas today.

Related commentaries:
Hurricane Mathew

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